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Monday, 15 June 2015

Report From New Songs Working Party, 17th May 2015

The working party made up of the session leaders for the local groups (Alan Wheeler & Dave Garrard for Easebourne/Selham, Emily Longhurst for Worthing and Tina Cox for Lewes) met again at Emily’s house on 17th May, 2015.

In 2014 we were asked by the Committee to find 6 new songs and chose 13! This time we were looking for 6 songs and chose 11 so it’s been agreed we won’t repeat the exercise until 2017.

We previously had 39 songs so this takes our repertoire up to a round 50 songs, enough for a whole new CD in due course.

We chose the 11 songs based on:
  1. all the songs having to sound great in their own right,
  2. not being vetoed by any of us,
  3. having a local link and
  4. prioritising subjects less well represented in our existing repertoire, particularly regarding class/poverty; industries/occupations other than farming; the sea (with some coming from Chris Hare’s new “Secret Shore” coastal project); seasons other than summer; no more Copper or Belloc songs unless exceptional; songs written by/ about women.

The 11 songs we chose were:

Brave Eleven Written by a local woman regarding heroic deaths in an attempted rescue from a shipwreck off Worthing.
Farmer’s Toast Previously not included as we were unsure of its Sussex credentials. We’ve rechecked and it’s sufficiently widely spread and sung often in Sussex. A farmer gives thanks for his happy and fruitful life.
Jim The Carter Lad Generally sung everywhere including Sussex. About a carter lad who goes merrily about his carting while giving pretty girls the eye.
Littlehampton Collier Lads Song with obvious local connection and occupation which was popular along the South coast in the 19th century and was collected by Vaughan Williams.
Magpie A traditional chorus “One for sorrow, two for joy etc” is included in an unusual song from the 1960s folk revival which references the magpie as a mystical “devil’s bird” which brings both joy and grief.
Masters In This Hall For our Christmas repertoire. A carol written by William Morris, the Victorian artist, designer, writer, and socialist, set to an old French dance tune with a 16th century feel which tells of the poor bringing news of Christ’s birth to the masters.
Pleasant And Delightful Traditional. Popularised by Shirley Collins and others. Like “The Nightingale” but instead of a soldier we have a sailor who is leaving his pretty Nancy to go where the loud cannons roar and it also has blackbirds, thrushes and "larks who sang melodious at the dawning of the day".
Poor Frozen-Out Gardeners From an old broadside. About unemployed agricultural workers, winter and poverty.
Seasons Turn Around Written by Sylvia Watts, mid 1970s. Popularised around Sussex by Martin Wyndham-Read. Beautifully poetic, “gold autumn, green spring, blue summer and white winter rain”.
They Won’t Let Us Go To Sea Anymore Written by a folk singer then resident in Hastings about EU quotas leading to the decline of the local fishing fleet.
Woodcutter’s Song Traditional. Praises woodcutters and 14 different types of wood – oak, pine, birch, chestnut, hawthorn, holly and many more.

There are also four of our songs chosen in April 2014 which are not yet equally known across the three local groups and have not been widely performed. These are Christmas Now Is Drawing Near At Hand, Constant Lovers, Coppers’ Christmas Song and My Boy Jack.

We agreed to start teaching these songs in the local sessions in the following order, with a view to beginning to perform them from the 2016 summer season onwards. In due course Alan, Dave, Emily and I will provide sound recordings of these new songs (and written notes for anyone who would like them).

Up to September 2015:
  1. My Boy Jack (this was lower down, but has been moved up so we can sing it at Bateman’s on 2nd August as it is based on a Kipling poem)
  2. Constant Lovers
  3. Farmer’s Toast
  4. Jim the Carter Lad
  5. They Won’t Let Us Go To Sea Anymore
  6. Pleasant And Delightful
September to December 2015:
  1. Littlehampton Collier Lads
  2. Woodcutter’s Song
  3. Masters In This Hall
  4. Coppers’ Christmas Song
  5. Christmas Now Is Drawing Near At Hand
From January 2016:
  1. Brave Eleven
  2. Poor Frozen-out Gardeners
  3. Seasons Turn Around
  4. Magpie

Tina Cox

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